Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cheese at Lido

It's been a bit of a barren time for cheese lately. I was expecting to find some interesting cheeses in Priorato in Spain where I've been for the past couple of days but it was just the usual Manchego. But I came across a couple of really nice dishes last week at one of our local Bristol restaurants called Lido which I've mentioned on the blog before.

The first was a salad of deep fried artichokes, fresh herb labneh (remember labneh?) and crisp flatbread (above) a simple fresh and delicious starter for this time of year. You could use a young soft goats' cheee if you didn't have time to make labneh.

The second was billed as a 'small plate' for sharing at the beginning of the meal but I took it instead of a cheese course - a mixture of Gorgonzola (and cream, I think), sliced celery and walnuts with a drizzle of honey. I don't know why more restaurants don't do cheese plates like this. Cheaper for them than keeping a big cheese selection and cheaper for the customer. (I paid £3.00 for it instead of £6.50 for a piece of Gorgonzola served at the end of the meal). So easy to rustle up at home too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crazy Cantal

This is not a piece of arid desert or crazy paving but a cheese. A 5 year old Cantal, according to the stallholder at Agde market who was proudly displaying it the other day.

I have to say it didn't taste like a very old cheese. I've sampled 4 year old parmesan and Oude Gouda and that they both had an incredible intensity that this lacked (it was more like a mature Cheddar). And I'm not sure a well-made cheese should break up internally like this.

But it was quite a spectacle. I've never seen a cheese quite like it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The cheese with no name

I guess most people would still think that France was one of the best places in the world to buy cheese. I hate to disabuse you but it's not - or not down in the Languedoc anyway. The choice is either between the industrially produced cheeses that fill the supermarket shelves or nameless cheeses like the ones above that sell from small market stalls. You can actually buy better French cheeses in my home town of Bristol - and wouldn't pay a lot more for them.

The one above - a semi-hard goats' cheese similar to Pecorino in style - was actually quite tasty with a pleasing firm texture and tang - as indeed it should have at around 24 euros a kilo, roughly the same price as a good piece of steak. But the other day I came across an ill-made very 'cowy' cows' cheese for much the same price that wasn't appealing at all.

All the fabulous little cheese shops I remember from 20 or so years ago in France seem to have disappeared - unless you're in a big city like Paris or Lyon. Sad.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hurray - it's grilled cheese month!

We've all got quite used to dedicated food days and even weeks but what genius came up with the idea of Grilled Cheese Month? Not that I and my fellow cheeselovers need a great deal of encouragement to eat grilled cheese - or toasted cheese as we'd call it in the UK.

Needless to say the idea is American and restaurants there are taking maximum advantage of the promotional opportunity involved. A Los Angeles restaurant called Clementine for example is offering 25 different versions of grilled cheese sandwiches created by prominent LA chefs. Each week the menu is presented on a specially designed retro postcard with a 'cheesy' theme.

At Artisanal, the specialist cheese shop and restaurant in New York, there's a different grilled cheese sandwich for every day of this month offered with a matching wine. Today's being Bra Tenero, an Italian cow's cheese with arugula (rocket) pesto paired with a Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier from Australia.

Just wish I was there.

Have also just discovered a great photo-collection of grilled cheese sandwiches on a blog called Pithy and Cleaver!